Artifacts tell the story
By Erik Strohl
This time of year is extremely busy for the Curatorial Department at the Hall of Fame. Our busiest time of year is the offseason because come April and Opening Day, all of our new exhibits are either planned or well under way, and maintenance on existing exhibits must be done on a yearly basis.
Among the many existing exhibits in need of updating in the offseason are: Autumn Glory, the exhibit focused on the World Series; the Records Room, which lists statistics of career and active record-holders in both pitching and hitting; and the Major League Baseball awards, featuring honors such as the Gold Glove and Cy Young Awards. We also do a fair amount of digital curatorial work, updating Hall of Famer databases and Web content.
We have a unique position as curators because when something is incorrect in our exhibits, our visitors let us know. That shows the passion that baseball fans have for the game and its history. Many fans come in and may be more knowledgeable than we are on a specific topic or team like the 1950s Cleveland Indians or the current state of Minor League franchises for the Chicago Cubs. The strength that our curatorial team has is a vast general knowledge as well as the resources at our fingertips to gain more information. Our fans always keep us on our toes to make sure our information is accurate and up to date.
The fun part about working at the Hall of Fame is you can go home and watch baseball on television and say it’s your job — because it is. So that is something that I will never get tired of. Sometimes you just have to sit back and smile because you get paid to do baseball.
In April, we will be opening Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream which will be a retrospective of his entire career. Up until this point, the only person who has had an entire exhibit dedicated in his honor had been Babe Ruth.
The exhibit will cover Aaron‘s youth, growing up playing baseball to his career in the Negro leagues with the Indianapolis Clowns and the Minor Leagues in Eau Claire (Wis.) and Jacksonville (Fla.). It will obviously look at his Major League career, which is what we have focused on in the past.
We will also cover his post-baseball career and really talk about his business and philanthropy efforts for the first time. Many people may not realize the impact Aaron has had both domestically and internationally since he retired. He really used the celebrity and iconic status that he earned as a player to make a larger difference off the field.
The artifacts in this exhibit are unbelievable. Most have been donated by Aaron himself — in fact 85-90 percent of the artifacts that will be on display come from Aaron. He has been extremely generous with us. All of his records, particularly the chasing of Babe Ruth’s career home-run record, will be covered extensively.
This new permanent exhibit will become a part of our new massive expansion of our Records Room over the next few years which will eventually be called the Hank Aaron Hall of Records. Permanent exhibits are really only changed every 10-20 years, so this is truly historic. Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream will open April 25.
Our second large-scale exhibit opening this year is ¡Viva Baseball!, slated to debut May 23. This is an exhibit we have been wanting to do, and its subject matter becomes more prevalent every year in the modern game. This is the story of Latinos in baseball and the impact on the game that Latinos have had.
It will be located in the second-floor timeline around the 1960s. It will be a room covering the history of baseball in most of the Latin-American countries where baseball is played as well as the cultural transition that baseball has had and the impact players have had on Major League Baseball today.
- For more from Erik, visit the Hall’s Official Blog at baseballhall.org.
Erik Strohl is the senior director of exhibits and collections at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.